Article Originally Published by Kelly Tran on North Texas Daily
Even in the middle of a pandemic, the show must go on. After eight months of darkness, Denton’s theater scene is making its return to the stage in the form of its first-ever virtual production.
Theatre Denton’s “The Gin Game” will be available to stream as a recorded performance beginning Oct. 14. The show, directed by Buster Maloney, stars himself and his wife, Cindy.
“We thought people need the arts,” Buster said. “You know, there’s a lot of mental and emotional difficulty going through a pandemic like this, and we just felt like that we could do that little bit to maybe give people a little bit of art, a little bit of theater into their homes, and hopefully let them feel maybe a little bit normal anyway.”
Theatre Denton is a newly formed theater organization that combines Denton Community Theatre, a community theater group that has been around for 50 years, and Music Theatre Denton, a musical theater group that has been around for over 35 years.
“I think [Theatre Denton]’s gonna be great,” Cindy said. “It’s gonna make our resources bigger and more valuable, and I think everybody’s going to be able to pull together and make some really good shows.”
Before the pandemic hit and before becoming Theatre Denton, Denton Community Theatre had plans to celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2019 with eight shows, out of which they could only produce four.
“The pandemic has really wreaked havoc on our ability to produce our shows and artwork for the city,” Theatre Denton President Caleb Norris said. “Right before the pandemic hit and we shut everything down, we had a show that was ready to go up. They were in dress rehearsals, and our performers and our cast and crew members had been working for nine weeks on the show, and I felt so bad for them. We attempted to reschedule that show three times, but the coronavirus just kept spiking in the summer months, and we never felt safe about producing it. So, ultimately, we had to cancel it, which was very sad, and my heart goes out to all those talented people that were involved in it.”
Theatre Denton had thought of starting a “mini-season” beginning in September that would include in-person productions, but spiking coronavirus cases did not allow them to. After some brainstorming, Norris said, Theatre Denton came up with the idea of streaming their productions.
“We were trying to make these decisions [about a mini-season] right around the time that cases started to really spike in Texas, so we just made the decision to cancel all the remaining season,” Norris said. “But then, members of our board’s production and governing board thought, ‘Well, what if we could stream one of these productions?’”
Norris said Theatre Denton reached out to the rights holders of two shows, a musical and “The Gin Game.” Out of those two, the rights holder of “The Gin Game” gave Theatre Denton the green light to produce the show.
“We were hopeful that we might have more than one show that we were able to stream, but it just wasn’t in the cards,” Norris said. “I do think that going forward, a lot of the rights holders for these properties have seen that this is a viable way to produce these shows and, of course, make money for them.”
The production has been in the works since mid-August. Buster and Cindy have been rehearsing together at home, only coming up to the Campus Theatre to rehearse by themselves and, finally, to film the final version of the performance. It was filmed with the production crew while socially distanced a week before the release.
“For an empty house, it’s really weird,” Buster said. “Neither of us are film actors, we’re stage actors, so it’s a really strange experience to be performing the show with no one in the house, no audience. So we just felt, because of that, it would just be easier for everyone involved to just do the film version and stream that. We only brought the crew in for that last few days.”
A lot of technical work is involved in order for the whole performance to transfer well on camera, specifically lighting.
“[The videographer] and I had to work very closely in order to ensure that what I was lighting was looking good for the camera,” lighting director Leslie Deal said. “Since I am a theatrical lighting designer, I’m used to designing light in a way that it looks good to the human eye. But the difference is that the human eye is less sensitive and responsive to different light conditions than a camera is. So lighting for camera and making it look good is quite a bit different than lighting for a live audience.”
Despite the virtual format, the Campus Theatre honored tradition by putting up a display in the lobby, which consists of a “The Gin Game” themed bulletin board and a kiosk which showcases elements from the show. Audiences will still have the experience of walking into the Campus Theatre, although virtually, with the introduction video Theatre Denton has planned to include.
“We’re actually doing an intro video that shows people coming to the Campus Theatre to see a show and they’re going to see the kiosk and see the lobby display, and all these traditional things as if you’re coming to a live show in Denton,” Buster said.
“The Gin Game” holds a special place in the hearts of Buster and Cindy, as they had seen Frank and Betty-Ann Barrow, their mentors and some of the founding members of Denton Community Theatre, perform the show.
“We saw them perform the show several years ago and it just made us think we’d like to do that,” Buster said. “And when Theatre Denton needed a show to do with two people, we thought it’d be a good tribute to them to produce the show.”
Tickets for “The Gin Game” can be bought for $15 on the Theatre Denton website, which will grant access to the recorded performance. The production will be available to stream Oct. 14 to Oct. 18.
“If it’s successful and people tune in and we were able to sell some tickets, I think that it could be a valuable tool going forward until we are able to resume a more normal theatrical experience, whenever that is,” Norris said.
Featured Image: Buster and Cindy Maloney pose on set of The Gin Game in the Campus Theatre on Oct 10, 2020. Viewers can purchase a ticket to watch the production online from Oct. 14 – 18. Image by Samuel Gomez
Source: North Texas Daily